Current Affairs Archives
Letter to the proponents of San Francisco proposition E 2015
I received email promoting prop E and sent the following letter in response:
Mr. [David] Lee,
The kids are not fiscally all right — and here’s a few more thoughts on why 2015
[A post I put up on Medium archived here in October 2015]
Ana Swanson’s Washington Post Wonk Blog piece, “The growing wealth gap that nobody is talking about: Young people have always been poor, but today’s young people are poorer than most”, ends in puzzlement. A few potential sources for the comparative poverty of Gen-X and Millennials in the United States are offered, but the concluding paragraphs seem out of place with the confident, data-driven statements cited before them.
Why should the lack of wealth among Gen-X and Millennials be such a surprise given their (or I could say ‘our’, in the case of Gen-X) role as the generations who were most encouraged to run up and continuously carry substantial credit card debt? (See, for example, trends charted here.)
These generations also walk away from college graduation with substantially more student loan debt (“Soaring College Tuitions.” The New York Times, Dec. 4, 2008, corrected chart 1; see also Friday’s piece “We’re Making Life Too Hard for Millennials” with its chart captioned ‘Tuition Races Upward, Debt Mounts’).
Beyond credit debt, though, our extending lifespans in the U.S. have to be important too. Based on my initial exploration of changing life expectancy (as described by the Social Security Administration in these sources 2, 3) it appears that as you move forward from 1900 there is a later and later age of potential inheritance of wealth from older relations. (That potential is not evenly distributed, as, for example, an examination of African-American experiences* in home ownership and debt over the past century painfully reveals. When there is no family wealth accumulated, there is even less opportunity for any upward climb.)
The sources cited above support that, showing the increasing percentage of those who reached age 21 who then reached age 65. If you get old enough to likely become a parent, you also have an increasing likelihood of reaching retirement age. Those who are able to collect wealth are holding it longer.
Thus, to give specific examples based on the charts in these sources, someone born in 1895 (the parents of the Greatest Generation), who reached age 21 only had 60–71% odds of living until 1960. That 65 year old would then, on average, be unlikely to live past 1975. They would therefore be releasing their wealth into the next generation when their kids are 55–60 years old (assuming they had had their kids when around age 20–25). Put another way, 29–40% of the Greatest Generation would likely have inherited their parents’ remaining wealth by age 60.
Our boomer, born in 1955 (the parent of our Gen Xer), who reached age 21 has 79–88% odds of living until 2020, and then on average of not living past 2035–2040, releasing their wealth into the next generation when, if they had their kids generally around age 20–25, their kids are 55–65 years old. Put that another way and only 12–21% of Gen Xers will likely have inherited their parents’ wealth before age 55–65.
The parent of our Millennial, let’s say, is born in 1975, and having reached 21 has 82–90% odds of living until 2040, and then on average of not living past around 2060, when, if they had their kids generally around age 20–25, their kids are 65–70 years old. Thus, only 10–18% of Millennials will likely have inherited their parents’ wealth before age 65–70.
Over just nearly a century we’ve gone from a generation where 1 in 3 inherited by retirement age, to a generation where fewer than 1 in 5, perhaps as low as 1 in 10, will inherit by or soon after retirement age.
There is a cascading effect of extended lifespan which may be more important than inheritance, given that many will not inherit a meaningful amount of money even in the best scenario for their age and generation.
Increasingly, not only would a given generation not yet have inherited at their own retirement age, their parents are more likely to use up more of that potential inheritance supporting themselves living on well after retirement, or even to require financial assistance from them, further reducing potential wealth passed on to the children of that given generation.
There may be an offsetting influence of later parenthood (e.g., children more often had at 25–30 or even 30–35 years old) but I suspect that, at least until very recently, lifespan has been extending faster than parenthood has been trending later. The CDC data I found in a cursory search, (4, 5), suggests that only within the last 10 years are we seeing average age of the mother pushing up to the 25–30 year old age range. That trend may be picking up speed, but so far I don’t have the impression it has overtaken the influence of extending lifespans in terms of average age of child at time of death of last surviving parent.
While past generations were motivated to build their wealth in order to create a better future for their children, now those parents are more likely to still be around enjoying that future, with the children needing to shift for themselves far longer. It becomes somewhat less clear what the younger generations’ motives would be to take on years of debt and hard work to build wealth for anyone but themselves. With less reliable relationships between debt and long-term wealth — as college degrees no longer are as sure a path to high income and as the mortgage crisis demonstrated the vulnerability of investing in a home — recent generations are finding it hard to determine their best method of avoiding destitution in old age.
Freedom to define your own path is a touchstone of Generation X, but that freedom is also for many simply a hard fact: there is, starting with that generation, decreasingly going to be a transfer of the prior generation’s progress.
Approaching that future, clear-eyed, amidst financial crisis and Great Recession, little wonder that Gen-X and Millennials aren’t looking particularly lucky. And little wonder that they’re exploring other ways of defining the good life.
Out on his terms 2012
"I’ve never wanted to be any kind of reporter other than a good one, & I do not desire to promote any cause other than the truth." - Anderson Cooper
It's a tough choice, that second to last question. 2012
And if you want to know more about what bath salts actually are, check this out.
Miami, you have issues, honey. 2012
Just catching up here &, wait, what? "Bath salts lead to face-eating"? That iPad zombie game I recommended has waaay more believability.
This is not ok. 2012
Surprised & disappointed by lack of info on @bbcnews & @cnn on the horrific beating of Ukrainian Svyatoslav Sheremet http://www.allout.org/ukraine
the hot seat 2012
RT @kfury: Yahoo! needs a new CEO like Spinal Tap needs a new drummer.
You didn't do it alone 2012
RT @anildash: Simply by affirming that he's a proud American, Mark Zuckerberg could show the leadership & grace Saverin lacks http://pandodaily.com/2012/05/12/what-eduardo-saverin-owes-america-hint-nearly-everything/
...your right to... 2012
RT @danielpunkass: A perfectly melded appreciation of Maurice Sendak and Adam Yauch, from @dansinker. Too short, must read: http://sinker.tumblr.com/post/22693690710/where-the-wild-things-were
Why does the government care about marriage? 2012
After seeing the news of North Carolina's ban on same sex marriage, my thoughts again return to the questions that came to me when California's ban was voted in: Why is government even in the marriage business? What benefit does it bring government to control it instead of it being an individual contract? And, in the face of all these budget issues, is managing marriage really of value to government?
I asked those questions on Twitter and had a lively chat with @striatic and @alanstorm (which had the background flavor of making me happy about the internet and the kind of conversations it can enable).
@striatic said that yes, managing marriage is of value. "Unless you want ceaseless advertisments for 'marriage brokers' and all the inherent overhead dragging on the economy. And then you'd need to regulate these contracts anyway to sync them with government offered benefits."
Still not sure I see the first half of that argument—are other common contractual agreements really prone to over-advertising and, even if annoying, would that actually drag the economy?—but I do see the point that if the government is offering benefits, the management of verifying the required status is something the government is interested in.
I drew an analogy with business contracts not resulting in ceaseless ads or economic drag (indeed, perhaps having an economic contribution). @striatic said, "The majority of people don't need legal aid or ever form business partnerships. The majority of people do get married."
Well, that sent me off immediately for the numbers. According to a Pew Research Center study from last year (as reported by ABC), 72% of U.S. adults have been married at least once, though only 51% are married now. That figure is down dramatically since 1960, when the numbers were 72% and 85% respectively.
Finding numbers on how many U.S. adults have entered into a contractual agreement other than marriage (such as incorporating a business) at some point in their lives was not so easy to find. While I accept @striatic's point that marriage is a significant agreement which the majority of adults still participate in, I am holding out for data on whether it's actually exceptional over other comparably complex legal experiences.
At this point @alanstorm joined in, "Government involvement helps create a standard of fairness for the individuals getting married and enforcement of rights."
To which I replied, "Ok. Standard of fairness with regard to which rights? Tax law? But that would need to change to if gov got out of marriage biz."
He said, "Jerks could coerce individuals into unfair marriage contracts, hospitals could ignore spousal rights in an individual contract, (that is, an individual marriage contract written like a standard employment agreement)."
Domestic partners face the latter (hospitals ignoring spousal rights) often enough. Seems the former (unfair marriage contracts) has old roots in expectation of female financial dependence, though. A lot of old assumptions (e.g., taxes re: shared home ownership/parenthood are linked with married status) would need re-examination were the government to 'get out of the marriage business'.
@alanstorm said, "It's complicated for sure, Wikipedia has a list of the sorts of things I was thinking about: Rights and responsibilities of marriages in the United States. There's a huge legal support system for married people that gay couples deserve access to. That's what government recognition [is] for."
If the government offers special rights/responsibilities for the married, it is in government's interest to administer marriage. That is clear. What is unclear to me is why it is in government's interest to offer special rights/responsibilities to married people.
@alanstorm said, "Because marriage is complicated, and irrespective of strides in women's rights, one partner often becomes dependent on another. And government (despite its reputation in entertainment politics) is here to help us when things don't go as planned." @striatic said, "Married people want those special rights and responsibilities, which makes it in the government's interest. That's 100% fine if the special 'rights and responsibilities' are not 'advantages', and are accesible equally to all."
However, I remain unsatisfied. I'm not asking "Why are there some societal benefits to government taking an interest in protecting these special rights/responsibilities?" but "What fiscal or administrative arguments continue to make it in government's interest to offer special rights/responsibilities to married people?"
@striatic rightly pointed out that "governments have goals other than self administration, established by their constituencies .. governments aren't businesses." But I can counter back, "What other goals is it serving for government to offer special rights/responsibilities to married people?"
He said, "altogether nuking marriage is a solution looking for a problem. The problem isn't marriage, but who isn't allowed it."
I'm not proposing nuking marriage. I'm just questioning which aspects of it should be managed by government.
@alanstorm concluded whimsically, "Fiscal argument? Because we pay taxes and deserve it! (I'm glad we managed to resolve 200+ years of policy in one twitter night.)"
But I'm not satisfied there, either: "Well, except that taxes are biased toward the married, which for unmarried committed couples (by choice or exclusion) ain't great."
That last round brought in @lrgc, who said, "Assuming it's in society's interest, then government is society's administrator. Now I'd need to think if it's in society's interest."
And can I just say, '140 character limit means you never have serious conversations', my lily white ass! :)
Put your money where we need it, BART. 2012
Here's a good petition: Tell BART to fight for American jobs & get a better deal for taxpayers = win-win #bart4america
RT @fourbarrel: Four Barrel is not the 1%. In fact, we only serve whole milk.
An artist-run, little art gallery? Seriously? That's the butt of your outrage? 2012
RT @jameshome: If the front line of your war on capitalism is Valencia Street, I don't want to be part of your revolution. #1MGS
RT @mulegirl I'm really pissed at the jackoffs who attacked galleries and small shops in the Mission last night. No sense. Feel for the owners & workers.
the polarization that's always bubbling underneath the surface 2012
RT @jsmooth995: New video, looking past the news cycle on Trayvon Martin
How America Came To Torture Its Prisoners 2012
Our highest government officials, up to and including President Bush, broke international and U.S. laws banning torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. Worse, they made their subordinates in the military and civilian intelligence services break those laws for them.
My long-form reading concierge today 2012
Ya fly the Space Shuttle over NYC and ya see what happens? 2012
RT @arielwaldman: I don't have words for the latest space meme. I present you SHUTTLING:
The Pepper Spray Cop story continues 2012
Authors Guild v. Hathi Trust 2012
Pleased to see @ARLpolicy working for fair use & libraries. I'm an author, but I know @AuthorsGuild is failing my long-term interests here.
The spoken word and the personal voice remain incredibly powerful 2011
Here's just a hint of the experience I had this week at Mike Daisey's The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs at Berkeley Reperatory Theater.
This doesn't do the full experience justice and only gives a hint of the interwoven stories of beautiful technology, our love for it, the people we think of who bring it to us, and the people who do that we don't think of.
I urge you to see this show. It will move your mind.
Bad Weather Coming 2010
West coast of North America, look out:
Originally Posted by USGSFrom: UC Environmental Protection Services Issues [mailto:UCEPS-
Subject: Winter Storm Warning starting Sunday
Currently, the strong El Nino is reaching its peak in the Eastern Pacific, and now finally appears to be exerting an influence on our weather. The strong jet has been apparent for quite some time out over the open water, but the persistent block had prevented it from reaching the coast. Now that the block has dissolved completely, a 200+ kt jet is barreling towards us. Multiple large and powerful storm systems are expected to slam into CA from the west and northwest over the coming two weeks, all riding this extremely powerful jet stream directly into the state. The jet will itself provide tremendous dynamic lift, in addition to directing numerous disturbances right at the state and supplying them with an ample oceanic moisture source. The jet will be at quite a low latitude over much of the Pacific, so these storms will be quite cold, at least initially. Very heavy rainfall and strong to potentially very strong winds will impact the lower elevations beginning late Sunday and continuing through at least the following Sunday. This will be the case for the entire state, from (and south of) the Mexican border all the way up to Oregon. Above 3000-4000 feet, precipitation will be all snow, and since temperatures will be unusually cold for a precipitation event of this magnitude, a truly prodigious amount of snowfall is likely to occur in the mountains, possibly measured in the tens of feet in the Sierra after it's all said and done. But there's a big and rather threatening caveat to that (discussed below). Individual storm events are going to be hard to time for at least few more days, since this jet is just about as powerful as they come (on this planet, anyway). Between this Sunday and the following Sunday, I expect categorical statewide rainfall totals in excess of 3-4 inches. That is likely to be a huge underestimate for most areas. Much of NorCal is likely to see 5-10 inches in the lowlands, with 10-20 inches in orographically-favored areas. Most of SoCal will see 3-6 inches at lower elevations, with perhaps triple that amount in favored areas.
This is where things get even more interesting, though. The models are virtually unanimous in "reloading" the powerful jet stream and forming an additional persistent kink 2000-3000 miles to our southwest after next Sunday. This is a truly ominous pattern, because it implies the potential for a strong Pineapple-type connection to develop. Indeed, the 12z GFS now shows copious warm rains falling between days 12 and 16 across the entire state. Normally, such as scenario out beyond day seven would be dubious at best. Since the models are in such truly remarkable agreement, however, and because of the extremely high potential impact of such an event, it's worth mentioning now. Since there will be a massive volume of freshly-fallen snow (even at relatively low elevations between 3000-5000 feet), even a moderately warm storm event would cause very serious flooding. This situation will have to be monitored closely. Even if the tropical connection does not develop, expected rains in the coming 7-10 days will likely be sufficient to cause flooding in and of themselves (even in spite of dry antecedent conditions).
In addition to very heavy precipitation, powerful winds may result from very steep pressure gradients associated with the large and deep low pressure centers expect ed to begin approaching the coast by early next week. Though it's not clear at the moment just how powerful these winds may be, there is certainly the potential for a widespread damaging wind event at some point, and the high Sierra peaks are likely to see gusts in the 100-200 mph range (since the 200kt jet at 200-300 mb will essentially run directly into the mountains at some point). The details of this will have to be hashed out as the event(s) draw closer.
In short, the next 2-3 weeks (at least) are likely to be more active across California than any other 2-3 week period in recent memory. The potential exists for a dangerous flood scenario to arise at some point during this interval, especially with the possibility of a heavy rain-on-snow event during late week 2. In some parts of Southern California, a whole season's worth of rain could fall over the course of 5-10 days. This is likely to be a rather memorable event. Stay tuned...
Samuel Y. Johnson
Western Coastal and Marine Geology
U.S. Geological Survey
Pacific Science Center
Dinah's 2008 election slate 2008
President & Vice-President: Barack Obama & Joe Biden
--- Solid platform, sound plans, inspiring leader who can bring us together.
U.S. State Representative: Nancy Pelosi
--- I want her to take a stronger stance against the war, but need an experienced leader in the House.
State Senator: Mark Leno
--- Very pleased with his work.
Member State Assembly, District 13: Tom Ammiano
--- Generally pleased with his work.
Member Board of Education: Barbara "Bobbi" Lopez, Sandra Lee Fewer, Rachel Norton, H. Brown
--- Combination of statements (I like H. Brown's idea of training kids for emergency response preparedness rather than pointless P.E.) and endorsements.
Judge of the Superior Court, seat #12: Gerardo Sandoval
--- Have heard bad things about opponent & have voted for Sandoval in the past without regret.
Member, Community College Board: Mary T. Hernandez, Steve Ngo, Natalie Berg, Milton Marks
--- Again, combination of statements & endorsements.
BART Director: Tom Radulovich
--- Keep up the good work.
1A - Yes
--- We need to build more non-car infrastructure
2 - Yes
--- Cruelty isn't necessary in food production. Don't buy the argument that it's too expensive to be decent.
3 - No
--- Past bond funds still available. Some concerns over percentage of money going to private hospitals.
4 - No no no
--- Mother's rights over her body come before the "rights" of some lump of cells. Fetuses are not citizens.
Would I like to see fewer unwanted pregnancies, absolutely yes. Do I think making abortion more difficult to obtain decreases unwanted pregnancies, absolutely not.
5 - Yes
--- Treatment works better than punishment and it's cheaper.
6 - No
--- Locking up a specific portion of the budget for a specific cause is generally a bad plan.
7 - No
--- When Environmental Defense, the League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, AND PG&E agree something is a bad idea, it's a bad idea.
8 - No no no
--- Don't build prejudice into the state constitution. (See my comments on this below).
9 - No
--- As someone I trust deeply with direct experience of Victim Witness programs told me: the voice of the victim is already pretty well protected in our justice system. We don't need non-objective opinions leading to over-imprisonment.
10 - No
--- Appears to heavily favor one service provider (key backer of the proposition, surprise surprise) and doesn't even require that the fleet established with these funds remain in California.
11 - No
--- As much as redistricting may be needed, this is not the proposition to do it. It does not have any safeguards to ensure that the commission it would establish actually represents the electoral mix of the state.
12 - Yes
--- A good bond act with costs covered by those benefiting from it.
City & County Propositions:
A - Yes
--- A major quake is just too probable and the benefit of this work too clear to delay it.
B - No
--- Again, as with State Proposition 6, a fixed set aside is unappealing.
C - No
--- This should be covered by other conflict of interest rules. The argument "why should a fireman be prohibited from serving on the environment board?" is compelling.
D - Yes
--- This is a good area to continue developing.
E - Yes
--- Consistency with established best practices is a good thing.
F - Yes
--- Elections are expensive so let's get people involved in these local decisions when they're already drawn to vote on state & national issues.
G - Yes
--- Yes, this seems perfectly reasonable.
H - Yes
--- Imperfect, but I can't say I trust PG&E's environmental or cost decisions over what's proposed here.
I - Yes
--- Seems reasonable & no arguments against submitted.
J - Yes
--- Surprised this doesn't already exist; unconvinced by all the developers & landlords arguing against it.
K - Yes
--- Oh this was a very tough one, but the public health arguments are incredibly strong, particularly the evidence from New Zealand. I would prefer that it explicitly shifted efforts from prosecuting prostitutes to prosecuting human trafficking or other abuses. Frankly, I'll be surprised if it passes, so I expect votes for K are more of an indication of priorities to SFPD.
L - Yes
--- I am unconvinced that the opponents to the Community Justice Center are driven by more than being in opposition to Gavin Newsom. Quit grandstanding, Daly.
M - Yes
--- Only landlords oppose this measure attempting to stop abuses by landlords. *cough* Well that's pretty easy to decide on.
N - Yes
--- I do not believe measure opponent Michela Alioto-Pier has my best financial interests at heart; I'm not nearly rich enough to be part of her base.
O - Yes
--- This is one of those "has to go by the voters but its just a best practice change" as I read it.
P - No
--- Sorry, Gavin, we agree on quite a few things, but I'm with the huge crowd opposing this change.
Q - Yes
--- No brainer; no opposing argument.
R - No
--- This is a frivolous, unhelpful measure and I'm sorry to see it made the ballot. Now is the time for us to find common ground with those who supported George W. Bush and help them understand how his policies were damaging to them. This mockery doesn't help. It's also unkind to those who perform this important city service.
S - Yes
--- A nice rational approach. After that starry-eyed "let's turn Alcatraz into a peace center" measure C earlier this year, we definitely need dreamers to balance their ideas with how they'll be funded before we vote on them.
T - Yes
--- Treatment services reduce city costs relating to substance abusers.
U - No
--- I oppose this war and further troop deployment to Iraq, but don't think our representatives in Congress should be told, for example, that they should oppose an otherwise good plan because it includes a minor deployment.
V - No
--- Military recruitment in high schools is just revolting.
Member Board of Supervisors District 5: Ross Mirkarimi
--- Seems to be doing a good job. I like my neighborhood!
Thoughts on California proposition 8 2008
This is about the law. An adult individual in California currently has a legal right to marry another adult individual to whom he or she is not closely related.
In the past, this right was limited by race: California Civil Code Section 60, provided that “All marriages of white persons with Negroes, Mongolians, members of the Malay race, or mulattoes are illegal and void,” and also Section 69, which stated that "... no license may be issued authorizing the marriage of a white person with a Negro, mulatto, Mongolian or member of the Malay race". This was overturned by the California Supreme Court in October 1948 in Perez v. Sharp on the grounds that it violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
"Laws prohibiting the intermarriage of whites and Negroes are on the books of 30 states, have survived every legal test. Last week one of those states changed its mind. California's ban on mixed marriages was declared unconstitutional by a 4-to-3 decision of the state's Supreme Court. Marriage, said the majority opinion, is a fundamental right of free men; and the right to marry includes the right to marry the person of one's choice. The decision also declared the law contrary 'to the fundamental principles of Christianity'."
No doubt there were many who would have preferred that the decision had not gone that way; it would be another 19 years before Loving v. Virginia in the U.S. Supreme Court forced laws against inter-racial marriage off the books.
That ruling stated: "Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law."
So, we have a strong precedent for protection of the individual's right to marry the person of their choice.
I firmly believe that women should have the same legal rights as men, and vice versa. In other words, I believe gender should be as strong as race with regard to equal rights under the law.
The law should be blind to gender as it is to color.
Marriage by the state bestows a legal status of a recognized relationship, just as health laws for farms bestow a legal status for a recognized food producer. Religious persons may ban the consumption of a particular food, but their beliefs do not deny others the right to consume that food. Similarly members of a particular religion may ban participation in the religion to those who marry a member of the same sex (or of a different race), but their beliefs should not deny others the right to marry.
With regard to the "what about allowing marrying children? or animals?" scenarios brought up by supporters of a ban on same-sex marriage, these add a new class of person able to marry: a non-adult or a non-human, and are therefore not parallel to the matter at hand in Proposition 8. The "slippery slope" argument ignores this basic matter of legal precedent and Constitutional backing. We are talking about a legal relationship which is defined as being between two individuals who are not closely related. The question here is whether additional qualifications can be added on that; if unrelated individuals A, B, C, and D can be married off as A&B and C&D or as A&D and C&B, then what legal justification can there be for preventing the marriages of A&C or B&D?
I remain baffled by the argument that encouraging serious public commitments to each other somehow "weakens marriage". I was at San Francisco City Hall in February 2004 and walked down the entire line talking with the couples; these were not fun-seekers, but rather couples seeking to publicly state their devotion to each other. In an age of celebrity weddings and "find a bride" reality shows, this restored my faith and that of many of my friends in the institution of marriage.
These are some of the reasons I will be voting NO on 8.